What Are You Going To Do...
...When You Are Not Saving the World?
The title of this post mirrors the title of my favorite Hanz Zimmer track from his Man of Steel soundtrack. Yes, I know that in light of my bitchy track record that it seems odd for me to express such adoration for anything remotely related to the current DC Cinematic Universe, but, alas, here we are. The song stirs something in my heart when I listen to it. I cannot help it. It inspires me.
Perhaps for some the question has little relevance; you know that you cannot save the “world” as a whole. And admittedly, I have never have, and will not in all likelihood - barring some sort of failed but uncanny genetic experiment granting me the powers to do so. It gnaws at me that war, famine, drought, climate change and many other human-made or at least human-assisted injustices exist and that I cannot single-handedly assuage them. That’s not even counting the randomness of the tragedies we cannot control, i.e. tsunamis, earthquakes, and plagues.
Like imagining oneself trying to count the stars in the sky, it quickly becomes overwhelming to my limited mental and emotional faculties to think on it too long upon all the things that are bad, or are going badly, for humanity on this spinning globe. It’s especially disheartening to consider the man-made stuff. Mother Nature has given us enough to worry about as is, so it seems insane for us to fail to act on the things we can change. I know I’m not alone here because in every culture humans have invented fictional heroes who embody our most noble traits and work tirelessly to save lives and protect us from danger. Our most successful movies are about them.
I saw Infinity War (three times, because NERD) as you also probably did considering its incredible box-office take so far. That said, the following might constitute a spoiler - though keeping in mind there are two movies in the Infinity War storyline and we have only seen one of them, here is what I’m going to write about now: failure. Specifically, the failure to save the world, and where one goes from there.
In the realm of super-powered beings, there only seems to be two answers: you either try to learn the lessons from the experience of failure and try, try again utilizing the gift of the knowledge of what did not work before. Or, you take your gifts and talents away and selfishly go into hiding – much like Rian Johnson’s Luke Skywalker or Chris Nolan’s Bruce Wayne (granted, the exiles were impermanent; I mention this to save the other nerds the need to comment).
In all the movies we’ve seen thus far, Captain America has been the principled heart of goodness on the Avengers team. He does not give up. He retains hope in people who others are convinced are beyond saving. That, above all else, his tenacity of character and ability to love, is the strength that makes him unique and more powerful than the brawn granted by the experiment way-back-when the World Was ending for a second time in a century.
Because I know how comic book stories work, and this one in particular, I know the Avengers will assemble once more and win. This does not make it any easier to watch my favorite characters turn into ash before my eyes. And more pointedly, despite the inspiration provided by my favorite fictional heroes to feel hope for the future and work accordingly, it does not grant me the ability to look at the news and see yet another group of children slaughtered at their school and not be weighed down by the horror of our failure as a society to address the problem. It instead inspires me to be the Captain America who slumps in defeat and can only muster up a resigned, “Oh god.”
Right now, and though probably impermanent, I feel defeated. I no longer wish to witness the horrible things we do to one another. I am particularly exhausted by our culture’s apathy on the active shooter problem. On this, we are collectively failing. That means I am failing as well.